Sunday, October 25, 2009

270. A Home at the End of the World - Michael Cunningham

History: This book was written in 1990.
Plot: Bobby had grown up in a home in suburban Cleveland, Ohio during the 1960s and 1970s where partying and drugs were a recurring theme. He had already witnessed his beloved older brother's death in a home accident and his mother's death by the time he befriends Jonathan, who comes from a sheltered, but loving family. After Bobby finds his father dead, Jonathan's family takes him in. Bobby and Jonathan become best friends. Closer than brothers, they also experiment sexually. The two eventually lose touch, but meet up again in their twenties in 1980s New York, where Bobby moves in with Jonathan and his eccentric roommate Clare. Clare had planned to have a baby with Jonathan (now openly gay), but Bobby and Clare become lovers, while Jonathan still has feelings for Bobby.
Their romance occasionally is disrupted by sparks of jealousy between the two men until Jonathan, tired of being the third wheel, disappears without warning. He re-enters their lives when his father Ned dies and Bobby and Clare travel to Phoenix, Arizona for the services. The three take Ned's car back east with them, and impulsively decide to buy a house near Woodstock, New York, where Bobby and Jonathan open and operate a cafe while Clare raises the baby daughter she and Bobby have had together with Jonathan.
The trio form their own unusual family, questioning traditional definitions of family and love, while dealing with the complications of their love triangle.
Jonathan invites his former lover Erich to visit and is shocked by the state of his health, and it is determined that Erich is "sick". Jonathan is probably infected too.
In the end, Clare takes her daughter, now a toddler out for a visit to her brother and never comes back. The three men are left to themselves in the large empty house, one actively with AIDS, one infected, and one not infected.
Review: Cunningham's prose style, by turns evocative and reflective, has an unintentional comic side effect. He divides up the narration among the main characters, and they all sound the same. So Bobby, who barely gets beyond ''Uh, like, you know'' when given a line of dialogue, suddenly comes up with sentences on the order of ''Its outbuildings are anchored on a sea of swaying wheat, its white clapboard is molten in the late, hazy light.'' But the intricate, searching prose is all that keeps the novel from being as muddled as its characters. It does more to redeem them than anything they do. This is an unconventional story about the variety of ways one can fall in love and the difficulty of creating a life not bound by conventional roles.
Opening Line: "Once our father bought a convertible."
Closing Line: "Bobby announced that the minute was up, and we took Erich back to shore."
Quotes: ''We'd hoped vaguely to fall in love but hadn't worried much about it, because we'd thought we had all the time in the world. Love seemed so final, and so dull — love was what ruined our parents. Love had delivered them to a life of mortgage payments and household repairs; to unglamorous jobs and the fluorescent aisles of supermarkets at two in the afternoon.''
Rating: Okay.

No comments:

Post a Comment